Thursday, May 31, 2007

Making the Most of the Time

Today, I was playing "tourist in your hometown." That's a little game we folks who live here in the metro DC area like to play from time to time. We try to not take for granted the fact that we have a plethora of living stones, crafted into architecturally astounding buildings and monuments that house some of the most significant pieces of history anywhere, all within walking distance of one another.

I played this game today because I am hosting my best-friend's daughter for the week. I made an offer that I have gladly been taken up on: I told my friend that when each of her daughters turned 15, I would host them on their own private tour of DC. So...daughter #3 is here from Atlanta, and we are making the most of the time. At least, I thought we were doing a pretty good job of that until that thought was challenged.

We started off the day dropping my son at school at 7:30 am. We walked to the nearby National Cathedral where we were able to slip in for a mostly under-the-radar self-guided tour. As a priest in the diocese, its a place that I'm all too acquainted with so I felt equipped to lead this tour amidst the whir of the floor polishers and the hushed business of resetting chairs and mopping up some uninvited water. It was blessedly peaceful and a meaningful time.

We then hopped back in the car and headed for downtown. I had made arrangements with a pastor friend to park in her church's garage which is in close proximity to the day's destinations: The International Spy Museum and the National Archives. Both sites were great to see and we had fun.
But the particular thing that challenged my thought that I was "making the most of the time" occurred at the unlikely venue of the Hard Rock Cafe.
We were seated at the far end of the dining room opposite the bar. After a few minutes of browsing the menu we realized that 'something' was going on. There were excited noises from the crowd in the center of the restaurant so we looked. At the far end, on the elevated platform where the bar is was a man...dancing! He looked to be in his 50's. As soon as the ripple of noise moved through the room, I noticed one of the waiters coming out from around the corner near our booth. Smiling he said, "Ken must be here!"

When our waitress came to take our order I asked, "So, who is this dancing Ken guy?" She rolled her eyes a little and said, "Oh, Ken. He comes here every day."
"Every day?"
"Twice a day."
"Twice a day?"
Shaking her head she said, "He's here for lunch and then again after work. He just - dances. "

"So he works?" my young friend queried.
I said, "So he must work pretty close by..."
"Yep," she said, "F.B.I."

I nearly spewed the water I had just sipped.

Ken was not a great dancer. He only had about three moves. Once, about three songs into his little routine, he busted a new move and the crowd really took notice. He danced a little more, then sat down and ate his lunch nonchalantly.

Things I noticed:

1) He was having SOME FUN! And he seemed to really like the fact that everyone else was, too.
2) He smiled and faced the rest of the crowd the whole time he was doing this.
3) He didn't seem to care one bit about what anyone else was thinking. Clearly he liked the attention.
4) He was not a great dancer, but man! Ken could DANCE!

Things I wonder:

1) Since he worked in a mostly "classified" environment, did daily doses of public dancing serve to 'bare his soul' in some cathartic way?
2) Has anyone ever jumped up there and started dancing with him? If so, how much of the joint did he get jumping?
3) Could I ever make the most of the time in a safe, healthy, happy, inspiring, fun, foolish but not foolhardy way like Ken the dancing guy was doing?

Things I felt:

1) Happy - he brought a smile to our faces.
2) Lucky - what a great story to get to tell.
3) Sad - I love to dance, yet I doubt that I would ever have the gumption to do what he's doing.

Read Ephesians 5:10-16. You can find it here.

What could you do to Make the Most of the Time you have?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Remnant

Last Sunday, Pentecost, I decided to worship with the faithful Episcopal remnant of The Falls Church, here in northern Virginia. An article about this visit is posted at Episcopal Cafe in the Daily Episcopalian section. Go take a look-see - it was a wonderful experience!

P.S. The artwork above is: Asian Remnant Oil on Canvas 30 x 30 in (75 x 75 cm) by Marie Sarni

Sunday, May 27, 2007

"Welcome to the Party!"

Ironically, (see post immediately below) those were the words that I was greeted with by the Rev. Michael Pipkin this morning at The Falls Church Episcopal worship service. His was not the only warm welcome that I received - even when I was 'outed' as a priest in cognito.

This morning, after sleeping on my decision on where to go to church today with this time off that I have, I easily made the choice of going to The Falls Church rather than the National Cathedral. I love the cathedral and have worshipped there on several occasions - including my ordination to the Diaconate (2004) and Charles Keyser's (my cousin) consecration as Bishop of the Armed Forces (1989) and many, many times in-between and since. However, there was just something about going to a small gathering of faithful but marginalized folks, meeting in an upper room on the Feast of Pentecost that won out over the impersonal pomp and regalia of the grand cathedral.

It was so great to be there. It just felt so right. I am really glad I went. I will go back. I will spend the month of June sojourning with this faithful band.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Waiting and Watching

As tonight fades into tomorrow, the Christian world will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost. This is one of the top high holy days of the Christian calendar - and a favorite of mine - that marks the time when, 50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus (Easter), the disciples were doing what they were told. They were waiting, huddled together in that same upper room where they had shared the Passover Meal with Jesus almost 2 months earlier and where they had seen the risen Christ eat a piece of fish.

I'm sitting here tonight, temporarily churchless. Last Sunday marked my final day serving with the people of St. David's and my new post at Christ Church won't officially begin until the end of July. I've been trying to decide where to spend tomorrow....and I'm torn.

On the one hand, I'd really like to visit one of the remnant churches here in Virginia in a show of support - like the group from The Falls Church that is meeting at a nearby Presbyterian church. And I will visit them on some Sunday during this time apart that I have. But, tomorrow is such a big day...such a big party day...I'm kinda leaning towards going to the National Cathedral for a big hoopla of a Feast Day. I've decided to just rest with the decision tonight and see where I'm led in the morning. In the meantime though, all this thinking's got me thinking.

I can't imagine what that time of waiting must have been like for the disciples crowded in that upper room with close companions. Would there have been a party-like atmosphere as they eagerly anticipated Jesus' promise fulfilled - maybe like a surprise party as they waited for the guest of honor to show up? You know, lots of people trying to sit really still but they can't help making funny comments to try to get someone else to laugh out loud while the biggest worrier keeps making shushing noises...false alarms..."I hear him!"..."no, that was just the man downstairs coming back from his mother's house..."

Or, would they have all been sitting solemnly, afraid to look at each other too much out of reverent and holy fear? What did they think would happen? The last time that the "Holy Spirit came upon" someone, Mary got preggers...what did they think about this terminology? What did they think it woul mean for them?

Or were they just bored in that "arewethereyet? arewethereyet?" kind of way?

The one thing we are told in the opening chapter of the Book of Acts is that while they were waiting they devoted themselves to prayer - and that the disciples who were gathered were - get this - men and women...and - now get this - that they were ALL filled with the Holy Spirit - all wearing flames on their heads, which, incidentally, is what a bishop's miter is symbolic of (click here to see a photo of one from an earlier post).

Some icons depicting the Pentecost Event have Mary front and center (like the one from Mexico in the sidebar above). However, strangely there are several - including the Orthodox version - that not only exclude the women from the depiction, but include Paul and Mark, neither of whom were there!

Now, icons are supposed to be metaphorical "windows" to God. They are heavily laden with symbols to express realities that can't be captured in a realism styled drawing.

But the fact that the women are excluded from these Orthodox icons has got me wondering yet again - and that wondering is part of the reason, I think, why I'm hesitating to go to The Falls Church remnant gathering tomorrow. If I go, I know I'll go in my civies, not my clerical collar, which on the one hand is perfectly fine - by design they're not exactly comfortable - I'm glad to have this break.

But what bothers me is what is not fine about the decision not to wear the collar: If I did show up there in clericals, I might be seen as a real interloper - someone who is being intentionally antagonistic, because even this remnant group are conservative enough that they rejected the offer by some local clergy women to come and serve them as priest when they were regrouping. And that just all seems very anti-Pentecost to me.

So...I just don't know. I'm going to have to sleep on it.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Yesterday's Blowout

So there I was, cruising home on the Capital Beltway (outer loop in VA), on my way home after a very emotional day of farewells to the wonderful people at St. David's Church. You see, yesterday was my last day serving them as pastor and priest - so we had lots of good things to say to each other, lots of ways to celebrate, remember and cherish our time together - and we topped it all off with a huge delicious cake - actually two huge delicious cakes.

And then, on my way home with my mom and three kids in the car...there I was, cruising home on the beltway...and suddenly it sounded like a helicopter was hovering overhead. Except that I quickly realized that it was not a helicopter but a very loud noise that involved rumbling and shaking the right rear passenger quarter of my Honda Odyssey mini-van...then simultaneously my mother and I saw the smoke and my little girl began to cry saying, "Mommy, I'm really scared!"

I pulled over as quickly and safely as I could to discover that my right rear tire had blown out the sidewall - you can see the photo above - both on the right and left sides of the tire. After AAA told me that while they would make me a top priority because of our location, normally routine roadside assistance calls take about 1.5 hours to get to in this area. Thankfully, a Fairfax County K9 officer pulled over, blue lights on, and changed my tire for me. And, thankfully I was only two miles from my exit, with only about 7 miles total to get home.

Once home, I crashed. I felt about as deflated as that tire looked - just plum wrung out emotionally.

So today I went out early and got four new tires for the van (they were due for replacement anyway) and then I decided that I needed a new start to my time off - some new tread for me. So now I have new cycling shoes and shorts, new running pants, a new pedometer and a new weight-tracking bathroom scales. I'm geared up for reclaiming my physical health and putting new wheels on this tired, way-too-fat bod.

I'm hoping that having new stuff will get me past the initial excuses of "nothing to wear that's appropriate and/or comfortable" but now I need accountability. Anybody out there have any good suggestions for me????

Saturday, May 19, 2007

32-year-old Elected Bishop

I just received news that The Rev. Sean Rowe has been elected bishop in his home diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. I was acquainted with Sean while he was a senior seminarian and I was a part-time student at the same seminary, Virginia Theological Seminary. His full acceptance as Bishop is pending approval by a majority of Dioceses according to Canon Law, but it is unlikely that any controversy will arise that would prevent the consents.

This is big news for our Episcopal church because for so long being elected Bishop has seemed more dependent on having leapt from one right church to the next - each successively larger and more impressive - than on being particularly gifted in apostolic and pastoral ministry. Read Sean's statement about his life of ministry and calling here.
This is also big news for our church because Sean's election marks a moment of the church putting its money where its mouth is in terms of honoring the gifts and voices of young adults in our church. Sean will be facing major challenges as he begins to lead a diocese that is in demographic and economic decline. May God's Peace be with you Sean as you seek to serve the least and the lost while living into God's clarion call to a Kingdom Life of service and witness.

Friday, May 18, 2007

hookers and Hooker

According to Wayne Besen in his article below, even a red-light district hooker would blush if she heard about the high rate of premarital sex and STD's in Nigeria. Maybe so or maybe no, but I think he's really on the money in this analysis of Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola's deference to exercising ecclesial power in a distant land (USA) over serving the least and the lost in his homeland (Nigeria). Corruption and chaos rule there, and yet Akinola sees fit to fly the coop and fail his own people in favor of igniting more scandal and ruin in The Episcopal Church. If original Anglican Richard Hooker were alive, he would be red-faced for a whole different reason.

Anything But Straight: Nigeria’s Frequent Flyer
By Wayne Besen Thursday, 03 May 2007

"...While the political elites in Abuja will use guns to maintain dominion over voters, Akinola will be lording over a ceremony in Old Dominion to install church rector Martyn Minns as the bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a subsidiary of the Nigerian church. Basically, conservatives who think the Episcopal Church is too liberal, are refusing to submit to its authority, and instead have opted to align themselves with Akinola.

What I find outlandish is that Akinola and his Anglican apostates get all bent out of shape about a gay bishop in sleepy New Hampshire, but fall asleep at the wheel over real problems faced by Nigeria, and Africa as a whole.

Is Robisnon's sexual orientation more important than the heartbreaking fact that two million Africans die from AIDS-related illnesses each year, according to Nuhu Ribadu, the Chairman of Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission?

Does a New England homosexual take precedence over the nearly 3,000 African children who die each day from malaria? Is the gay issue a bigger moral concern than the 40 million African children who are not currently in school?

Or, what about the fact that Nigeria has profited to the lavish tune of a half trillion dollars from oil revenues in less than fifty years - and yet, seventy percent of Nigerians live in abject poverty with exiguous incomes of less than one dollar a day? (Presumably, these peasants are not the ones sitting in the pews of Akinola's lavish church).

Akinola would have you believe that he must come to America to save us from our decadence. Yet, according to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, Nigeria is awash in premarital sex and has STD rates that would make a red light district hooker blush..."

Read the whole article from the Falls Church News Press online here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I haven't posted in a while - that's because recently (May 7-14) I went on a church sponsored conference/retreat for Episcopal Clergy called CREDO. The word credo comes from Latin and is closely related to the English word "creed." Generally people think it means, "I believe" and it does often get translated that way.

However, our understanding of the word "believe" has changed over the last few centuries - the original sense of the word really is more like "I give my heart to..." This understanding implies a path, a journey, a movement forward into something that is beyond ourselves right now.

The reason for the conference, sponsored by our church's pension fund, is to help clergy more fully give their hearts to God and to the people whom God has called them to serve. The practice of finding spacious blocks of time over the course of a week in order to reflect on components of a life of ministry - spiritual, vocational, health, and financial - is one that is all too often neglected by people in "helping professions."

This week was truly a gift to all of us on CREDO 120 held at the Duncan Gray Retreat Center near Canton, MS. Below are some photos, taken by Fr. Brian Winter of Arizona, from that week. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007